Strategy With Employees: Boosting Portal Usage

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SECU Michigan has learned a thing or two about its award-winning Product and Services portal-chiefly, more employees should use it and they should use it adeptly.

"Supporting staff is the biggest trap," said Noreen Schafer, portal administrator at the $730-million credit union. "Several credit unions have portals that employees aren't using too much. Our Products and Services module is a change and it takes time and effort to help staff through that change."

The Products and Services module of the corporate portal offers employees up-to-date sales information in one place on the credit union's Intranet, potentially serving as a consistent reference point across 14 branches.

Employees can search to find information about a product or service's features, benefits, FAQs and promotions, as well as tips on how to make the sale.

SECU's Products and Services implementation ties one credit union trend, the portal framework, to another - the CU's budding sales culture to the portal framework.

SECU's design may be the credit union archetype. The 300-employee CU's Products and Services module nabbed the "Portal Best Practice" award in March at a Passageways user conference. Passageways, a portal provider owned by Purdue EFCU's CUSO, partnered with SECU to develop the Products and Services module.

The Callahan & Associates' creditunions.com website has also noted SECU's portal.

Despite the notoriety, little more than 50 % of SECU's front-line employees seek out the Product and Services module of the portal to assist sales efforts, Schafer estimated.

And employees take about six minutes on average to find information in the portal, said Schafer. Too often, they lose confidence and give up, she added.

Employees are accustomed to consulting branch managers, not Intranet portals, when they need answers, Schafer explained. "And there are times when the manager doesn't have the correct information because there's just so much going on."

Employees finished initial training on the portal in August, she said.

Schafer will spend a good deal of one-on-one time this year apprenticing employees to the portal. "You have to make the connections for employees," she said.

Schafer hopes the connections will be ignited partly by the staff's feeling of ownership of the portal. "We have a bottom-up mentality at this CU," Schafer explained. "Our products and services module is built directly from employees' feedback. It's what they said they needed."

This year, Schafer would like employees to find information in about three minutes on average, and she hopes employees will experience an 80 % success rate for their searches.

Coming next year is SECU's effort to integrate the portal with the core processing system, so that "when staff is in the data processing system setting up a CD or something for a member, the staff can get right to all that Products and Services information in the portal," Shafer said.

CUJ Resources

For additional information on this story:

* SECU Michigan at www.secu.org

* Passageways at www.passageways.com

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